My first guest blogger is Natasha, whose blog, Neutral Words, is well worth a visit. I reached out to her as I knew she wrote short stories, something that I love to do and she very kindly sent me her short story, Autumn Leaves. So sit back with a cuppa and enjoy….
The temperature was dropping, a fragrant smell of damp gravel, leaves, and musk was strong in her nose. Halloween had passed and in a blink of an eye, it was already coming to the end of November. Where has this year gone? She was sad that her favourite season would be over in just a few short months, the excitement of festivities washed away to a memory. She had just finished a very long and tiring shift at the tiny café just placed by the top of the hill which overlooked a scenic park, adorned with wobbly wavy trees, piled with dead and vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves below. The wind would continuously blow the leaves around, painting a new scene every day. No matter how many times a gardener would try to straighten them up they would always rebel by dancing away later, feeling free across the gravel pathway.
Forgetting her gloves and scarf, she only had a coat to wrap around her torso, locking in as much heat as possible. Sadly, it wasn’t proving to do much as her teeth chattered away like a wind-up toy bouncing across the table with great force. Although she was fighting through the icy chill to return home for a much needed bath, a smile remained on her rosy face. She loved to spot the different coloured leaves, trying to find some hard crunchy ones to jump on. The street lights came on as the sun set further in the sky, it truly was a typical and beautiful autumn evening.
She sniffed as the air laced around her nose and ears, nipping as hard it could to get her sneeze or shiver. Already looking like Rudolph the red nose reindeer, she was now desperate to get in that bath. It was quiet, the only noise she could hear was her feet scuffing through the 2-inch piles of leaves, the naked branches whipping around and … a dog whimpering. Slowing herself down to a stop, she focused herself to try and discover where the source of the whimpering came from. It wasn’t far away, but it wasn’t very close either. It was difficult to see as the sky grew close to black, the only light source was the streets lamps illuminating the path.
Looking out beyond the trees, she saw a pile of leaves in a peculiar shape. Smothered slightly under it, appeared to be a cardboard box. With her heart thumping slightly due to her speed walking and the air nipping at her, her instincts were telling her to go further on and look in the box. Taking cautious steps into the dark area of the park, her eyes darted around to watch out for any sign of people watching her. Now a foot away from the box, she stopped again to listen for any noise. There it was again! A whimper and baby bark came from the leaf covered box. Now with adrenaline pumping, she let out a breathy gasp and threw herself onto her knees, hands scooping up the leaves and throwing them in any direction. She uncovered the box as fast as possible, a motherly feeling welling up inside her. Her eyes grew one size as a smaller pair looked up at her, sad and watery. It was damp, muddy and cold. Its fur was mucky yellow colour, long and unkept. A small golden retriever puppy. It wasn’t until she saw the drop land on the small dogs head that she released she was crying. Taking a deep breath, she gently held out the back of her knuckles for the tiny creature to smell and gain some trust towards her.
“What monster could leave you here?” Her voice shook, the cold and her emotions overwhelming her. It was supposed to be just like any other day. Go to work, serve some old ladies some tea with a slice of cake, walk home and go to bed. Not today apparently! Today she would find an abandoned dog in the park! It let out another whimper, shivering and padding its feet against the soggy cardboard. Gently scooping it up, she sat back on her bottom, not caring that the leaves were going to soak through her clothing. Now discovering that the puppy was a boy, she continued to look him over to make sure he didn’t have any injuries or another other sign of neglect. She unbuttoned her coat, tucking the bundle of matted fluff in her jumper, trying her best to provide him some warm. She stood carefully, buttoned up her coat once more and headed towards the lit path. Now seeing him in the light, she let another tear fall. All of her childhood, she had wished to have a puppy. Fate finally decided to grant her an early Christmas gift. She felt a small licking under her chin, setting her off into quiet giggles. The puppy was happy in her jumper, a noticeable bond beginning.
“It’s almost Christmas and looks like you’re my present this year… I’m gonna called you Nicky, after good old Saint Nick.” She muttered, avoiding any eye contact with others as they passed her through the park. Gently stroking the top of his head, she grinned again. An unexpected turn of events gave her a happiness that she didn’t think was possible to experience. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her mobile. Finding the number she needed, she pressed call and held it to her ear…..
“Hello, Mary?…, Hi It’s Lucy!… no no, I didn’t leave anything at the shop. I’m just calling to say that I’m not going to be able to make it to work tomorrow morning, there’s a family emergency that I need to attend too… No, I’m fine! Thank you!” She hung up, taking a satisfied breath. She reached the end of the park, now breaching the loud high streets of London. Gently hushing him as he whimpered slightly, she crossed the road and reached her block of flats. She was thankful once she stepped into her hallway, the flash feeling of warmth hugging her skin like a welcoming from a loved one. With ease she took off her coat and pulled her jumper off, cradling Nicky in her arms. She made it her task to get him cleaned up and bathed before taking him to the vet in the morning. He sat quietly and still on the counter as she slowly and nervously snipped away the clumps of matted hair away with some scissors she had in a sewing kit that her mother got her a Christmas ago. She did her best to make him presentable, giggling a little at how smily he was. She forgot all about running a bath for herself, her priority being him. He loved the warm bath, the splashing and the shampoo she used to clean him. He looked like a normal puppy now and she couldn’t wait to get him to the vet to get him checked up.
From what was a normal simple day turned into one of great surprise. Nicky was a surprise and a memory that would last for a long time.